Why It Works
- Strawberries give up their color and flavor easily, so you can make this bright liqueur quickly.
- You will save money and get better flavor than from widely available, cheap commercial strawberry liqueurs.
- Making your own allows you to customize and add flavors complementary to strawberries, like tarragon, vanilla, or basil.
I'm the type of person who usually ends up paying for a $2 purchase with a card, but I always make sure I have cash in my pocket so I can indulge myself at a roadside strawberry stand when the fruit is in season. If I get just a pint, I'm going to eat all the berries before I get home. Therefore, it's only logical that I buy a flat each time. If you're eating or drinking something at my house between April and October, it's going to have strawberry in it.
Strawberries go well with just about every spirit, fruit, and herb, so they're as at home at the bar as a lemon or a lime. But of all the strawberry cocktail projects I've tried, homemade cocktail liqueur is the most fun. You can splash a little strawberry liqueur in sparkling wine or club soda for a quick refresher, use it to sweeten up a seasonal sangria, or sub it in for other liqueurs like triple sec in classics like a margarita. And you don't need a lot of patience, since it doesn't take long for strawberries to release their flavor and color—after only a day or two you'll have a bright red infusion that smells like a Strawberry Shortcake doll who likes to party.
What's Available to Buy
Fragoli is an Italian liqueur, with real strawberries inside the bottle, that sells for about $40. Though it's not common enough to be at every corner liquor store, places like BevMo tend to carry it. The high-end American offering is Sorbetta, a small-batch liqueur made with American potato vodka for $20 a half-bottle. This one seems a little difficult to track down outside of special orders. Bols, Hiram Walker, Marie Brizzard, and DeKuyper—the companies that make every flavor of liqueur under the sun—all make strawberry liqueurs closer to $10 that are widely distributed.
The specialty strawberry liqueurs will cost you as much as a decent bottle of booze. (With rare exceptions, liquor is always a better way to spend your bar budget than liqueur.) And as far as Strawberry Pucker and the rest of the cheap stuff goes, you can make a better strawberry liqueur at home with fresh berries and still save a few bucks.
Your homemade strawberry liqueur will have the same bright color, scent, and intense flavor without anything artificial, and you can play around with accent ingredients. I went with the gentle anise flavor of tarragon, because it adds a little depth to the bright flavor of strawberries. But almost anything goes: Basil and strawberries are amazing together, and a little vanilla is a nice touch, too. Throwing in some blackberries, cherries, or orange zest could make for a fantastic twist. If it tastes good with strawberries, it will taste good in your liqueur.
For no-effort summer drinks, just splash some DIY strawberry liqueur in club soda or sparkling wine. You can also add a little quick strawberry flavor to a mojito or Tom Collins, or dress up a Gin & Tonic or Vodka & Soda by adding some strawberry liqueur. (If you want to get DIY extra credit, you can top it off with a few dashes of homemade rhubarb bitters.)
The bramble is a wonderful gin cocktail normally made with blackberry liqueur, but I think it might be even better with strawberry.
A lot of cocktails usually made with triple sec can benefit from a little strawberry substitution, including the already-pink cosmopolitan. The Seelbach is usually made with Champagne, bourbon, bitters, and Cointreau—but swap in your liqueur for a fresh, summery take on the drink. And while you could use it in most sangrias and punches, a fresh watermelon sangria is tailor-made for a little touch of strawberry.
8 ounces strawberries, roughly sliced (see notes)
One 3-inch sprig fresh tarragon
1 1/2 cups vodka
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Place the strawberries and tarragon in a sealable glass jar, then add vodka. Seal and shake. Let mixture steep for 2 days at room temperature away from direct sunlight. Strain strawberries and tarragon, then filter mixture through a coffee filter or through two layers of cheesecloth, pressing down to extract liquid.
Heat water and sugar in a pot on medium heat until it boils and forms a syrup, about 5 minutes. Let syrup cool.
Once the syrup is cool, combine it with the strawberry-tarragon infusion. Seal in bottle or jar, then shake to mix. Let rest for a minimum of 1 day. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
If you're using frozen strawberries, defrost them before use.
If you can't find (or don't like) tarragon, other fresh herbs like basil or mint are good substitutes.
Be sure to strain thoroughly, as little floating bits of strawberry will give your liqueur an off flavor after just a week or two.
Fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth or coffee filters
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||13%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|